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Personal care home fire in Brownsvile linked to smoking in bed

Mary Pickels
| Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010

A late-night fire Monday that resulted in the evacuation of 15 residents from a Fayette County personal care home may have been caused by a resident smoking in bed.

No one was injured, and the residents were relocated to nearby facilities, a manager in the Brownsville Personal Care Home said Tuesday.

Administrators hope to reopen.

"We are going to remodel," manager Toni Roberts said.

Firefighters from 11 departments were called to the 10:30 p.m. fire at the 321 Front St. facility.

Brownsville fire Chief Clark Sealy said the fire started in a second-floor bedroom. He said it appeared the cause was a resident smoking in bed.

"They are not allowed to do that," he said. "We are carrying that as our cause."

"We had a quick knockdown," Sealy said. "That kept damage to a minimum. There was a lot of smoke and some water damage. It's not habitable. Upstairs, there was such heavy smoke. The walls are all black."

Sealy said the evacuation went smoothly, and the fire department had prepared for such a scenario.

"We have had preplanning on this for years," he said.

Fayette EMS evaluated the residents at the scene and then took them by ambulance to the nearby Brownsville fire station No. 1, Sealy said.

From there, seven residents were taken to Monongahela Valley Hospital and seven were taken to Uniontown Hospital, according to Jordan Sealy, assistant fire chief. One resident was taken to a nearby personal care home.

Fayette EMS brought its rehab unit, including an inflatable tent with heaters, Jordan Sealy said. With Monday night's temperatures dipping into the 20s, a heated area for firefighters to take a break "definitely helped," he said.

The fact that most of the residents were awake helped. "That worked in our favor," he said. "They were evacuated in three or four minutes."

Roberts said several staff members assisted with the evacuation after the fire alarm rang.

She was unsure yesterday how soon the facility would reopen.

"They won't be able to come back here for some time," Jordan Sealy said.

Capt. Chris Blessing, commanding officer of the Uniontown Salvation Army, said he and six volunteers were at the scene Monday night. They set up three response areas, including one at the Brownsville fire station.

"We served beverages and snacks," Blessing said. "We had a counselor available. Fortunately, those services were not needed."

Volunteers set up a snack and beverage station on-scene and volunteers walked among the firefighters to deliver refreshments.

A state police fire marshal was at the scene yesterday, according to the fire department.

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